The HIT Policy and Standards Committees are seeking public comment on best practices for verifying patient identities--confirming they are who they say they are--in electronic communications.

That issue is particularly pertinent as requirements in Stage 2 of the electronic health records meaningful use program require more than 5 percent of patients to view, download or transmit their health information, and to conduct secure messaging with physicians.

In a blog posting, Deven McGraw, chair of the Privacy and Security Tiger Team subcommittee, lays out two questions under consideration: What steps should we be taking to make sure that the person who is remotely accessing the record is the actual patient, or that patient’s authorized representative? How can we reliably issue these digital certificates without making it too hard or too expensive for patients?

The committees also have several questions for patients who already have online access to their health records on how identity was verified and access granted, if they believe the process is secure, and if there are better ways to give patients secure online access.

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